Insightful stories of the most pressing local, regional, and international developments brought to you by Sputnik.

'Firefighters Who Added Fuel to the Fire': Nigerien Activist on French Troops' Presence

© AP Photo / Jerome DelayFrench Barkhane Air Force mechanics maintain a Mirage 2000 on the Niamey, Niger base, on June 5, 2021.
French Barkhane Air Force mechanics maintain a Mirage 2000 on the Niamey, Niger base, on June 5, 2021.  - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 25.09.2023
France has about 1,500 troops in Niger, most of whom are confined to the country's military base in Niamey. On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron said that his country would organize a withdrawal of its troops in the coming weeks or months until the end of 2023.
The French soldiers deployed in Niger did not contribute to the fight against terrorism but, on the contrary, did everything to perpetuate the phenomenon of terrorism in the country, said Ibrahim Namaiwa, Nigerien activist and member of Patriotic Movement for Responsible Citizenship (MPCR), in an interview with Sputnik Africa.

"Is the withdrawal of diplomats and troops from Niger a de facto recognition of failure in this area? Yes, we can say so [...]," he said, adding: "At first it was said that French troops had come to help Niger's soldiers fight terrorism. But when we faced the facts, we realized that the French soldiers were not fighting terrorism, but colluding with terrorists to perpetuate the phenomenon of terrorism by training and equipping them."

According to the Nigerien activist, the French soldiers, instead of helping the nation in its fight against terrorists, who represent a major threat to the country's stability and security, did everything to ensure that terrorism continues "to exist as long as possible."

"So that France continues to exert its influence, continues to play the role of the firefighters who come to put out the fire, even though they are the ones who are fueling it," Namaiwa emphasized.

French Barkhane Air Force mechanics maintain a Mirage 2000 on the Niamey, Niger base on June 5, 2021.  - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 25.09.2023
Situation in Niger After Military Coup
National Council of Niger Says Presence of French Forces in Country Not Welcome
On September 24, Macron announced the end of military cooperation between France and Niger and the withdrawal of the French ambassador, Sylvain Itte.
The people of Niger reacted with joy and satisfaction to this development, Namaiwa explained, because they have been fighting for their sovereignty for a long time, starting with the demand for the withdrawal of French soldiers from Nigerien territory. He recalled that after the July coup, the Nigerien authorities demanded the departure of the French ambassador and the withdrawal of French troops.

"Now that Emmanuel Macron, for one reason or another, has agreed to give in, we can only rejoice. We rejoice, it's a good thing, but we continue to redouble our vigilance and our determination to continue this struggle," he said.

Given the conditions under which Macron was "forced" to withdraw the soldiers, he further elaborated, it is necessary to remain vigilant and redouble efforts to ensure that the withdrawal takes place without negative consequences for the country.
Speaking about the underlying reason for Macron's decision, the activist noted that the move could be dictated by a combination of factors. At the same time, he underlined, the determination of the Nigerien people was one of the main factors that made France "respect the decisions of the new authorities."

"I think that first of all, we must recall what I just said earlier: the determination of the Nigerien people, the mobilization of the Nigerien people [...]," he noted.

Namaiwa also stated that another factor that forced Paris to announce the withdrawal was the response of the international community. He noted that during the 78th session of the UN General Assembly, several leaders and representatives of African nations touched upon the situation in Niger in their speeches. Some of them "denounced this attitude of France," which wants to stay in the country despite the demands to leave.
The 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 23.09.2023
Sub-Saharan Africa
Niger Military Leaders Slam UN Chief for General Assembly 'Obstruction'
At the same time, he recalled, no representative of Niger spoke at the opening debate of the 78th session of the General Assembly. According to the activist, called it a "serious diplomatic incident that cannot be tolerated."
On Friday, Niger's coup leaders accused the head of the United Nations of blocking their participation in the General Assembly, saying it was "likely to undermine any effort to end the crisis" in the country.
"They [ECOWAS, France] could not come and attack us militarily, they declared war on Niger but they could not wage war on Niger because they did not have the necessary means, nor the support [...], Namaiwa said, adding: "So they cowered at the level of the UN General Assembly."
On July 26, a coup took place in Niger. President Mohamed Bazoum was overthrown and detained by his own guard, led by General Abdourahmane Tchiani. Following the coup, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) suspended all cooperation with Niger and threatened military intervention if the rebels did not reinstate Bazoum.